Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hurdles & Hope

Not sure how to start this one... so I will just dive in...
You should know that I wrote this about a week ago.  That the outcome was not what we had hoped for.  That although things didn't turn out as we had wanted, we are all doing fine.  Staying focused on all that we do have, ever-grateful for our village of friends & family who want only the best for us.  I had no idea before this year that approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Makes it that much more of a miracle that any of us were ever born.  I also find it strangely comforting that I am very much not alone in this experience. 


I see them all laid out in front of me.  A line of hurdles, all in a neat row, the metal bars ready for the challenge.  This is how I see pregnancy now.  A series of challenges to overcome, of hurdles to clear.  The first one is getting pregnant.  Check.  Found out just after Thanksgiving.  The funny part is that even though we have now been trying for a year, I was certain that I did not ovulate that month.  The monitor never showed it, my body never gave me the usual signs.  So when my period was nowhere in sight on its due date, I was actually surprised.  Even more so when the faint line showed up.  And then a darker one the next day.  A moment of celebration, brief & fleeting before the seeds of worry start sprouting.  After two miscarriages earlier this year, we are all too familiar with how often things can go wrong.  How mother nature works her mysterious ways.  How there is nothing you can do, or not do, to change the outcome.

Hurdle two is staying pregnant.  Made it to six weeks for the first visit to the doctor.  Ultrasound showed nothing at first, then a sac & a possible bean.  Both the doctor & I thought that maybe, just maybe, we saw a little flicker of a heartbeat.  But it was too elusive to be sure.  Too fleeting to know that it wasn’t a shared hallucination fueled by Hope.  So we wait a week.  A long seven days that stretch out much longer than the 168 hours they contain.  Every ache & pain & what-if causing the time to tick by in a series of emotional highs & lows, peaks & valleys that make a rollercoaster look steady and sure.

Hurdle three is seeing that heartbeat.  That little “blink blink blink” that tells you things are as they should be.  That reassuring little flash that means you just might make it a bit further down the track.  So many things must come together for that little heart to start up & do its job.  Seeing it working means there is life, potential, Hope.

Hurdle four would be the CVS.  We went through this when pregnant with Remy.  Knowing that this time, we needed to KNOW what we were facing.  The surprise of Quinn’s Down Syndrome rocked our world so deeply.  Even though we now cannot imagine having him any other way than exactly as he is, the thought of facing such a surprise again is unfathomable.  There is so little that we actually control in this life.  Holding on to those moments of having control, control over knowledge at least, becomes so very important.  So, we choose CVS, done around 11 weeks, so we might know.  What happens next remains a mystery, but knowing what we are facing is essential. 

Hurdle five and beyond is staying healthy & growing that little bean into an actual person.  Making it through the weeks, the 20-week ultrasound where they look for heart defects & other potential worries, the gestational diabetes screening, other blood tests.  It is finding ways to still get rest while chasing after two monkey boys & carrying around an ever-expanding abdomen.  Feeling the first movements, kicks & rolls, that let you know somebody is really in there.  These hurdles actually get easier, closer together, leaping over them more quickly as the weeks go on.

Then there is the final one.  Birth.  The one you don’t even think about until it is right in front of you, otherwise no one would ever agree to do it.  Thankful for modern medicine & epidurals, I am one of those people who actually feels comforted in a hospital setting.  I cannot imagine giving birth at home or in a field or anywhere outside of the familiar sterility of a hospital.  Maybe it is from spending so much time in the hospital growing up… waiting for my Dad to finish rounds or check on a patient… some of the best people watching ever.  I know, I’m weird that way.  But I have always thought how cool it is for the doctors & nurses who get to be there for so many different births. To see people on what most would consider the most important day of their lives, to experience it with them.  For the fleeting moment that I considered pursuing medicine, I was certain that I would choose to follow my Dad’s path and be a baby-catcher.  My acumen, or lack thereof, for all things science quickly put a damper on that dream.  But as a woman at least I get to experience it myself.

Today I sit, somewhere over hurdle #2, waiting in mid-air for my appointment tomorrow.  In just 24-1/2 hours (but who’s counting!?!) I will know if I am out of the race or about to clear hurdle #3.  The pendulum inside my brain swinging wildly between certainty & doubt.  Baby, no baby.  Full, empty.  Praying, hoping, wishing with all my might to see that beautiful little blink blink blink on the ultrasound. Hope is a fickle friend.  You need her, she gets you through some rough patches, but she also is the one who sets you up for heartbreak.  Am currently clinging tightly to her close cousin, Faith.  Now she never lets you down… as long as you keep believing in her.  Hugging my boys a bit tighter, enjoying more games of build & destroy towers and reading endless books as two little bodies curl up close on either side… makes the waiting a lot more bearable.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas comes early

Having a wonderful weekend filled with fun, friends & Christmas preparations... and even got an early present of having Daddy home a week earlier than expected.  He came home from work Thursday night as usual & waited two whole hours before letting me know he didn't have to go back until mid-January.  Am beyond happy to have my partner-in-crime back for the holidays.

Yesterday morning we rallied the troops & made it downtown to catch the end of our town's annual holiday parade.  The marching band, Santa and the antique tractors were the big favorites.

Off to enjoy the rest of Sunday with my silly boys... all three of them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sticks & Stones

Turns out that the old childhood saying, "Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is really a load of crap.  Words do hurt.  What we choose to say & put out into the world is a reflection of what we believe, what we think, what we feel.  I really wish that people would choose their words a bit more thoughtfully.

I am talking about the word "retard"... or "retarded, tard, sp-ed, riding the short bus, etc."... all words that people use freely and without much thought in our culture to mean "stupid".  I know, I know... it's a free country with freedom of speech... of course you have the right to say whatever you want.  I used to say it... usually about myself, or a situation, never about another person.  But then Quinn came into our lives.  And made us start to think about what people really mean when using that word.  That the diagnosis of "mental retardation" appeared on some of the forms we have had to fill out.  The realization of what that word means in our society, or more accurately, what people really mean when they say it.

It always seems to go down this way... on a day when we are really proud of some new accomplishment or progress that Quinn has made... you hear a kid say it at the park, or a teenager on his cel phone, or a grown woman at the grocery store, or amongst your friends on Facebook.  Doesn't really matter the source.  It stings every time.  And hits hard the fact that no matter how much progress we make in our own little world, there is still a big world out there that thinks otherwise.

So we thicken our skins, toughen-up & pick our battles.  So far, when we have pointed this out to friends & family along the way, most are really thankful to have a new perspective on it.  One response we sometimes get is, "but I didn't mean it about Quinn" or "I don't think of him that way".  But here's the thing... Quinn is in a special education class.  He does learn things more slowly.  If he rode the bus to school, it would be the small one.  See where I'm going with this?  My new response is to say, "oh, did you mean one of his classmates?"

I don't have all the answers.  I am not perfect.  I am not the language police and will not hate you if you decide to use this word.  All I ask is that you take the time to think about what you are saying.  About what you really mean to say.  To think about how you would feel in our situation.  Kids can be tough with each other, but as adults I think we all have a responsibility to teach kindness in every area.  Kindness, acceptance, respect... things we all benefit from practicing every day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Burnout & Recharge

I have long been a believer in the whole "it takes a village" deal.  Being social creatures we need help, connection and the safety valve for the stresses of life that having a support network provides.  Before kids I was more often the help-er than the help-ee.  My pride and stubborn nature often getting in the way, even in times when I really could have used a hand or a shoulder or an ear.  One of the greatest gifts that Quinn's entrance into the world has given me is the acceptance of needing my village.... of admitting that I can't do it all alone.  That there can be just as much joy being on the receiving end, as on the side of giving.  We are incredibly blessed to have an amazing group of friends & family around the globe.  Although our family is spread far & wide across this country, we manage to get together whenever possible.  I often daydream about how incredible it would be if we all lived in the same area.  Or, at the very least, on the same coast. 

Thankfully, a part of my village showed up just at the right time this holiday season.  The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of doctor's appointments, school and the regular stuff of life... made more challenging by having to do it all single-parent-style.  We are nearing the end of William's latest job & are all so very ready for it to be done.  The longest project to date... he is currently going on nine solid weeks of work with only 4 days off the entire time... the job was just extended two more weeks & his shifts were upped from 12's to 13 hour days.  (Yay for the overtime.  Boo hiss for the time away from home factor.)  To say we are missing Daddy, is beyond an understatement.

So when my brother-in-law proposed the idea of he & his two boys coming to visit for Thanksgiving, I couldn't get the word "YES!" out of my mouth fast enough.  Normally the prospect of spending 5 days with 6 boys in my house would send me running for the nearest Lilith Fair concert, but even the thought of having help with my two wild monkeys for a few days made me tear up with joy.  (You know it's time for a break when you see the guys lined up outside of Home Depot looking for work & the thought crosses your mind, "I wonder if any of them would be up for babysitting?")  Tickets were booked & my prayers were answered.

My two little boys were over-the-moon to have their two older cousins to play with.  Endless attention and patience for tower-building, wrestling & boy games made it possible for me to get all of the Thanksgiving shopping done on my own.  Remy got to spend an entire day out with the "big boys" while Quinn & I went to his hearing test.  (Great news on that front, one ear tested within the "normal range", he now only needs his hearing aid for speech-intensive activities.  He has started telling me when things are "loud", proving that his ear tubes are doing their job.)  Remy was up with fever & an earache the night before Thanksgiving so I knew a holiday trip to the doctor was inevitable.  Walking into our house, after a long wait for the doctor and even longer wait in the pharmacy, & being met with the smells of turkey, stuffing & all the fixings in the works, I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude.  (Thank you Rick!!!)  Reminding me, once again, that not only can the men in my village take care of themselves, they are also quite skilled at doing the "taking care of"... something for which I am ever-grateful.

We managed to squeeze in a lot of lounging, eating & adventuring during their stay... all of the ingredients for an amazing Thanksgiving week.

We even fit in an outing to the city to visit the "big zoo" as Remy has named it.

Ever since they left my boys have asked daily, or more accurately, hourly the first day, where are their cousins?  ("Where Sam?" asks Quinn, pronouncing the "s" and the "m" just perfectly, much to our delight.)  So we are back to park outings, making mud soup and, although still missing Daddy, recharged & ready to face the next two weeks.

Looking forward to the next village gathering.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reading, Writing & Time Travel

As a kid, the most looked-forward-to event in my young world was always our next trip to the library.  I devoured books.  The feeling of walking into the warm, well-lit library from a dark & cold Alaskan winter day was nearly a religious experience for me.  The hushed tones, reverence for the written word & ability to be uplifted, as some people find in their churches, I found at the local public library.  I loved exploring the neatly organized aisles, in search of new & undiscovered adventures.  Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Edward Eager, anything by Judy Blume... I even sampled a few more advanced tomes at a young age... reading The Great Gatsby at age eleven & Catcher in the Rye around twelve.  (I may have missed some of the finer nuances of course, but totally "got" the concept of outsiders wanting "in" in their own ways.)  Returning home with a stack of yet-to-be-read books, I was like a young lion on the Savannah coming upon a herd of sleeping elk... um, or whatever it is that lions eat... circling my prey... deciding which should be digested first.  That is the voracity of my appetite for books & the written word.  Setting off to unexplored worlds of magic & truth & possibility, as necessary as taking in breath.

Even now, with the advent blogs & online journals, I find I have a similar appetite for reading.  Though it is now done between loads of laundry & refereeing squabbles between two little boys.  Writers online send out these messages, lovingly placed in their little bottles & set adrift in the sea of technology.  Not knowing for sure who will receive our words.  I see this personal writing as messages to our future selves, a bit of time travel in a way.  I once spent an entire afternoon at my Aunt's house reading letters that my Great Grandfather had written over the years to my Great Grandmother.  Letters from near (they lived in the same town) and far (when he was away during WWI)... his beautiful script often hard to decipher.  How better can one learn about who our ancestors really were?  Relying on the memories of others gives only a fraction of the whole person.  Reading their own words & thoughts & perspectives is such an amazing gift.  How else could I ever have known that my Great Grandma had very small & cute ears?  Or that my Great Grandpa loved her long before she would ever give him the time of day?  Though I suppose one could argue that our own accounts make us the least reliable narrators... taking it all with a big grain of salt... knowing that what we choose to write is not always the full story.

My own personal inspiration for a return to writing has come from a re-discovery of Natalie Goldberg, along with blogs by Kelle Hampton & Nici Holt Cline, showing me the beauty & importance of putting down the words & documenting this incredible thing called life.  I find myself simultaneously nostalgic for an era of "real" letter-writing, and grateful for the convenience and immediacy of Facebook & email.  The Luddite side of me wishing these words were a bit less disposable, leaving breadcrumbs for future generations.  These days I have far less time for personal reading or writing, but I take it where I can find it.  Usually in short snippets of thought - both reading & writing blog entries is about the same length of time my two monkeys can play alone, or watch an episode of Caillou or Dora, before losing interest & turning to mischief or violence.  I have a stack of "can't wait to read" books next to my bed... "The Help" is at the top of the pile, followed closely by the latest from Jeannette Walls & the manual for my Canon 50d.  They call out to me nightly as I tumble into bed, exhausted from the day.

This love of the written word for both pleasure & purpose is something I hope to pass along to my two boys.  We have books everywhere in our house, literally everywhere thanks to Quinn's love of moving large stacks of them from room to room.  We make our weekly treks to the local library - checking out books at random - wandering aisles, judging by covers & finding treasures along the way.  As for writing, am hoping my own little bottle-clad messages eventually wash up upon welcoming shores.  That future generations will know who we were.  That I have small, cute ears & loved my husband before he even knew my name.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home Sweet Warehouse

Although we dream of far open spaces & hope to have a little piece of earth to call our own someday, where we live now is pretty freakin' cool.  Most often described as "funky", our cozy little warehouse is a minimalist's worst nightmare.  Call it an occupational hazard, but falling in love with cool old stuff is a weakness both husband & I share.  The few times we have contemplated moving to a regular house, the reality of "but where in the world would we put all our stuff?" sets in & we once again appreciate all of the interior space we occupy. 

Historically an old military base, now inhabited mostly with artists, we are surrounded by industry of all kinds.  For our business, the artisanal talents our neighborhood provides is incredible.  From upholstery to metal-smithing, wood-work, glass, painters... there is pretty much someone in our hood who expertly knows how to fix whatever we need.

What we lack in yard & green-spaces, the town makes up for in the number of different parks to choose from.  We make almost daily treks to run & climb & play whenever the weather cooperates.

 Around the hood... I love finding bits of color & green alive amongst the industrial...

An added benefit of living among artists?  Even the graffiti is top-notch.

Sunset from our front stoop... these are the original photos... no editing or enhancements.

And on those rainy days... puddle walks provide the fun...

 Someday we will have our own bit of land...

The truth is, I think I could call a cardboard box in Zimbabwe home as long as these three guys were with me.

 Feeling Thank-full...